Activity Database


Low Stakes Assignments

  • Weekly journal Entries
  • Response to reading free-write (in class or homework)
  • Generate questions about the reading
  • Write a poem or short piece that mimics the style of what has been read
  • Write a letter, text message, or some kind of direct address to a character offering them advice, expressing frustration, or sympathy.

Small Group Activities

  • Take notes and switch notebooks
  • Divide up into groups to produce concrete written results such as, a response to the reading, an answer to questions, the main points from a reading
  • Generate a poster with your group that maps some aspects of a longer text or novel — this could also be done as a way of generating a visual representation of a given text


  • Have students use their low stakes assignments such as journal entries, free-writes, or questions to begin a discussion
  • Ask each student to speak for one-minute (or less) about the main points of a reading or what they thought, how they experienced or felt about a given reading
  • Have each student read aloud and offer a paraphrase
  • Prepare a forced debate on a given issue in the reading
  • Mock Trial

Essay Sequences

  • Scaffold an inquiry project — based on Linkon’s approach — in which a student engages for the entire semester with one text from multiple perspectives: historical, theoretical, close-reading, interpretive etc. End the sequence in a research essay.
  • Anthology Assignment: have students read anthology materials, like historical context and genre descriptions in order to develop by the end of the semester an anthology rationale of their own.

One Minute Paper

At the end of each class, or especially lecture, ask students to do a one minute summery, or describe the class using just a single word, or a sentence that works as a through line, and then post it. You could rotate student responsibility over course of semester and have one or two students in charge of the summery read his/her couple of sentences at the start of the next class. 

Is It a Rembrandt?

“…a museum curator confronts students with this problem: A prestigious exhibit of Rembrandt’s work is about to open, but some questions have emerged about the authenticity of three of the paintings. Each student becomes the museum’s top art investigator to look in to the suspicions. To do so, the students must examine the paintings and build a case to support their conclusions” (103).

  • Could modify “Rembrandt” to “Is it a Sonnet?” or Is it a poem by Sir Philip Sidney”
  • Another idea is to give each group a chunk of different old student papers and say ‘two are A’s and two are C’s, why do you think that is?’ The example teacher shares his “rankings” afterward, but if you run the activity you may also want to ask students to review your assessment criteria beforehand.

Good Lecture Patterns

“They begin with a questions (sometimes embedded in a story), continue with some attempt to help students understand the significance of the question (connecting it to larger questions, raising it in provocative ways, noting its implications), stimulate students to engage the question critically, make an argument about how to answer that question (complete with evidence, reasoning, and conclusions), and end with questions. The only exception? Sometimes the best teachers leave out their own answers whereas less successful lecturers often include only that element, and answer to a question no one has raised” (107).

To involve students beyond question and answer:

  • Ask a student or a group of students to play devil’s advocate
  • Have students generate a list of assumptions on which the lecture conclusions work
  • Have students give the lecture


For use in small classrooms and large lecture halls: ask students to think or freewrite in response to a question, then have them discuss their responses with a neighbor, then combine the pairs into groups of four, and then have the groups participate in full class discussion. Start with questions addressed in smaller “venues,” and may also want to appoint “reporters” from each group. Can be used at the beginning, middle, or end of any sort of class.

Oral Translations, Or “Revoicing”

At points during class discussion, call on students to paraphrase a peer’s question, statement, or paragraph s/he read aloud. Provide the first part of a sentence and then ask the student to fill in the remainder with a paraphrase of a peer. For example, “I hear my neighbor saying X about class topic Y…” OR “Student X has supported her point, which is Y, with Z example from the text.”

Heterogeneous Knowledge/Skill Groups

Say that you are teaching a course required by your college for majors, but that is also a popular choice for non-majors. You want to make sure that all student benefit from one another’s passion and expertise. So have the students rate their familiarity with a topic (maybe poetry) on a scale from 1-5. Have all the fives stand in a line, then all the fours, then threes, etc. then combine them into groups. For variation see page What the Best Professors Do (127).

Annotate It

Price defines annotation as writing on, which is an important tool for students of multiple disciplines. Try a version of her assignment throughout the semester and in multiple modes. IN her version of annotations her students are required to do the following: write (or record) a response to each paragraph; note the author’s use of evidence (or allusion, irony, pathos, etc) as you read; note structural cues; paraphrase the main claim/goal, a through line, or main theme; may also want to note vehicle and tenor; write down a list of questions. Price also recommends introducing students to annotations the first day of class by annotating the syllabus via this chart AnnotateSyllabusChart. The chart also measures student impressions to the syllabus over time.

Revised Syllabus Statement (Example)

This course emphasizes user-centered design and the value of connectivity over static standards to facilitate “universal instructional design.” Issues of accessibility are an integral component of instruction for all students. While students should disclose non-standard needs in keeping with guidelines provided by the Office of Disability Services in order to have those needs augmented by digital tools such as voice to text software or close captioning, the course recognizes the extent to which all students are “multiply situated learners” (Price 88). As such, the course emphasizes shared strengths over remediation.

“Cut and Paste”

Prepare a set of note cards with a set of claims, rhetorical gestures, citations, and explications. Put students in groups, ask them to shuffle the cards, and then compile them to compose a text. Alternatively, students can cut up their own texts, shuffle and recompile them into new wholes.

Discussion Questions

  • Though the reading presented a wealth of small, creative assignment, did you find a place where any of the authors articulated an effective assignment guide for long form essay/researched writing? What strategies are available to guide students through graded essays? Can we translate the short form activities into longer projects?
  • Which of these activities would you apply to your course? How? Why?
  • How can we write practical course outcomes that are both specific to literature as a discipline and accessible to students (concrete)?
  • What are some strategies to you use to keep from over preparing? What are some strategies you use to ensure you take on service roles that best suited to your skills?
  • How can we emphasize writing in process (drafting), and at the same time steer clear of what Price points to as the risks inherent in expressivism?